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Samajwadi Party crisis: Feud within family a way to prove authentic claim over party

There is nothing exotic about the expulsion and revocation of expulsion of Akhilesh Yadav from the Samajwadi Party. It is merely a culmination of an old phenomenon inscribed in the family ever since Akhilesh was sworn in as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. We are constantly witnessing how the feuds in the family entail disenfranchising each other to prove their authentic claim over the party.

Indeed, there seems to be an emerging correlation between the 'anti-ness' of Mulayam Singh Yadav and Shivpal Yadav towards Akhilesh and Ram Gopal Yadav, the mainstreaming of Akhilesh as a person in absolute command, and the rising disillusionment among anti-BJP voters to treat the party as a serious challenge to the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP). The chaotic disorientation of party, leaders and cadres is looming large.

File photo of UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav. PTI

File photo of UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav. PTI

Most significantly, nobody in the Samajwadi Party appears ready to set oneself up as being a leader above politics and political partisanship. In a word, everyone in the family has become 'too political' to gracefully delegate power to those who can optimally deliver for the party in the forthcoming Assembly election. It is argued, and rightly so, that being a master strategist, Mulayam is trying to manufacture an 'Akhilesh wave' by heightening the edge of dynastic dissent and then carefully scripting the victorious image of Akhilesh on all fronts including neutralising the strong anti-incumbency against his government.

Undoubtedly, Akhilesh is now being cleverly projected not only as the person in command of the Samajwadi Party but also a 'Vikas Purush' who is determined to radically break from the past styles of politics and politicians. Nonetheless, it remains to be seen as to what extent the powerful articulations of Akhilesh and his going ahead with developmental policies will neutralise the anti-incumbency factor and help the party consolidate its shifting Muslim-Yadav votebanks.

It is seriously puzzling that if Akhilesh Yadav is doing well enough to add a popular component to his developmental charm, why has the design of dynastic strife become more pronounced now? Especially at a moment when he was being acclaimed as the 'only game' in the party in Uttar Pradesh. My hunch is that the visible dynastic strife gelled perfectly well with the possible split of the party, if not today, then certainly in days to come.

Mulayam Singh Yadav while sensing it early might have scripted his role to overtly take the side of his ambitious brother, Shivpal Yadav and many others in the family while covertly backing his son Akhilesh Yadav to emerge as victorious Spartacus with grand support of the party leaders and workers. This has actually happened. Action, reaction and inaction within Samajwadi Party has finally has finally given way to the slogan, Jiska Jalwa Qaayam Hai, Uska Baap Mulayam Hai. The coup of Samajwadi Party is finally successful by the team of Akhilesh Yadav. Like what happened with Lal Krishna Advani in BJP, Mulayam Singh Yadav is now reduced as a great Marg Darshak while Akhilesh Yadav is being declared the national President of SP in the national convention whose legality is pending before the Election Commission of India.

Be that as it may, the rising frequency of conflict within the family often with wide media coverage had shaken the robust foundation of the party laid by Mulayam Singh Yadav. The greatest loss is to Mulayam Singh Yadav as he is no longer seem to enjoy the unwavering faith of the family members, party workers and most importantly his social base which was unimaginable ten years before. Indeed, the symbolism of being ‘Netaji’ is put on stake as he appeared more a ‘helpless father’ and ‘surrendered brother’.

In all probability, the public display of dynastic conundrum has negative ramifications for not only the party but also to the state politics in multiple senses. First, the core voters of SP have become-or, are becoming- disillusioned with the recurring high voltage drama of the family. The desertion of Muslim vote from SP will speed up in search of a viable option to defeat BJP.

Importantly, Muslim voters are already deeply disenchanted with SP on multiple fronts like communal riots, law and order issues and failure of the party to provide politico-economic dividends. A certain drift among Pasmanda Muslims have already taken place as a mark of protest against the Ashrafiya style of SP politics. Similarly, most of the OBC voters particularly Yadavas will shift their allegiance to BJP as the trend goes with 2014 Lok Sabha elections in urban areas of Uttar Pradesh.

We must note that BJP is consistently appeasing them by not only through its cultivated sense of ‘hyper Hindu nationalism’ but also through a ‘micro social alliance’ with OBC leaders and the community’s interest groups in both rural and urban areas. Thus, the recent dynastic conflict comes on to the agenda at the time when the party was already at the risk of becoming irrelevant for Muslims and Yadavas and if not properly addressed then the time is not too far when the political fate of the party will be doomed in Uttar Pradesh.

Second, the dynastic fracture is leading the party towards its organisational collapse as the party workers get highly divided at booth level and expressing their anti-party/leader sentiments in public realm. There is an unprecedented demoralisation among the party cadres and loyalists on the current state of inflated egos of their party leaders. Third, the recent family tussle has the potential of neutralising the side-effects of demonetisation which may have given a shock to BJP in the forthcoming Assembly election results due to rising discontents among farmers and rural voters. But SP has lost the opportunity to mobilise the voters and particularly those who were enchanted with BJP for its untimely policy and unplanned execution of demonetisation.

Given the alarming indicators, it is natural to form an opinion that the old dynastic party is in ‘terminal decline.’ The unfolded dramatic events also created a crisis of representation as we are not able to measure that whether the 2017 Assembly election in the state is going to be an election to elect the right representatives or a legitimate successor of a dynasty who can claim power against all the odds created by his kith and kin. Should we be pessimistic or optimistic about the direction politics of Samajwadi Party is taking? It should perhaps hardly be surprising to note that whatever healing measures may be taken to bond the deep ridden family differences, the aura of SP and its politics will wane in the state. Or, to put it another way, thanks to the failings of Samajwadi Party, UP politics can no longer function in the way in which we have come to understand and accept it, and in the way it has always functioned up to now.

The author is associate professor and head, Department of Political Science, Maulana Azad National Urdu University

Updated Date: Jan 02, 2017 13:43 PM

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